Goodbye and good riddance to the News of the Screws

Goodbye, News of the Screws. It came as a bit of a shock to hear that Murdoch has closed the News of the World, but typical of our times that I first heard of it on Twitter. The twitterati and today’s print press are all predicting the launch of the Sun on Sunday, and now that News International doesn’t own the “Screws”, it hopes it’s free to be able to buy the outstanding public shareholding of BSkyB.

Plus ca change, plus la meme chose!

It seems that firing 200 people is a small price to pay to get hold of BSkyB.

The Government, at the time of writing, are stating that they are constrained by law from taking into account if News Corporation are ‘fit and proper’ to own the UK’s largest private broadcaster. But just because the News of the World has gone, doesn’t mean that the investigation into these crimes should or will stop. News International management and management systems permitted these acts to occur and couldn’t allegedly discover them when originally asked by the police and courts. Is this a fit and proper organisation to own BSkyB? The least the Government should do on the BSkyB takeover is delay the decision and ask Ofcom to investigate if News International is a fit and proper organisation to own BSkyB.

Furthermore, the wrong doers need to be brought to court, and if guilty punished. Part of the wrong doing is, like after the Watergate burglary, the cover up. There are allegations that police officers were paid corruptly by News International, and questions as to the direction of the Met’s early investigations.

The tsunami of public outrage is caused by the allegation that agents of News International illegally hacked a murder victim’s phone, deleted messages and hacked the phones of war heroes, their families and the families of victims of the 7/7 Al-Queda attacks in London. If they’d stuck to royalty, politicians and celebrities, then Boris Johnson’s comments that this was a storm in a teacup stirred up by the left wing media &  the Labour Party, an issue he dismissed as “Codswallop” might have held, but this is not the case. In fact, News International’s paying off of the first twelve celebrities, authorised by their European chairman, James Murdoch, might have been, and now seems  more clearly to be a cynical attempt to close off  judicial enquiry.

So we need to ask, “What did James Murdoch know about the hacking of Milly Dowler’s, the 7/7 victim’s and the War Heroes’ and their families phones?”, when he paid off Sienna Miller and some of the other famous victims.  Was it a genuine attempt to apologise to the wronged or a cover-up?

The investigating police force in this sordid affair is London’s Metropolitan Police, which has not exactly uncovered themselves in glory. The Metropolitan Police is led by an appointed Commissioner and supervised by the Metropolitan Police Authority, whose members are appointed by Boris Johnson, the tory Mayor of London. Ken Livingstone, Labour’s candidate for Mayor next year, has 10 questions to ask Johnson about if he has acted on his view that what has become this great scandal is still “#Codswallop”. The de-facto chief executive, the Deputy Mayor for Policing, Kit Malthouse, is appointed by Johnson; he was elected to the London Assembly as a Conservative. The Tory leadership of the MPA will argue that they have no right to interfere in operational issues, but Johnson appointed both the Deputy Mayor and the Commissioner. He needs to answer Ken’s questions.

The worrying thing about Livingstone’s fears is that the Met are the only police force in the UK with such a political/democratic oversight. Given the example of the last two years, and what we are about to find out, we, as citizens, need to ask if we want any more ‘democratic’ control of the Police. The Coalition Agreement’s  Crime & Policing section proposes more of this sort of thing, with police oversight undertaken by ‘directly elected’ individuals. This must at the least be re-considered.

The actions of News International have placed the questions of personal privacy,  journalistic standards, corruption and police supervision at the centre of today’s politics.

It’s not over yet, and shouldn’t be.

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